November 18, 2008

An exclusive look at Texas' BCS and bowl fate in the Fix

If anything, BCS guru Jerry Palm of CollegeBCS.com is even more convinced this week that Texas' route to the national championship may be too circuitous to pull off.

"They've got to cheer for OU," Palm told Orangebloods.com. "They're not going to win the Big 12 South if Texas Tech wins. They need a three-way tie with Tech and OU and for the voters to get on board. I just don't see that as a strong possibility.

"Texas is fourth in the polls and OU is fifth. And I don't see it staying that way if Oklahoma beats the No. 2 team in the country and then beats a No. 10 or 12 Oklahoma State. That doesn't seem to be the way the voters operate - even though Texas beat OU head to head.

"Texas' best chance to get to the BCS national title game might be to have Texas Tech get to the Big 12 championship and lose to Missouri. Even that may not do it. Then, all of a sudden if the voters decide they want a conference champion, Texas won't be it.

"Texas needs an unusual circumstance. They need a three-way tie and for voters to behave in a way they don't normally behave. Or they need to have an upset or two happen so they end up winning the Big 12 or an upset to happen so no one in their division wins the Big 12.

"Another situation that would work well for Texas would be a two-loss SEC champion. Those would be nice things for Texas, but they would still have to watch their back.

"Texas doesn't really get a chance to make a statement because they are done with the difficult part of their schedule."

Palm said if Texas Tech loses to Oklahoma, the Red Raiders will be doomed from the national title chase as a one-loss team for losing too late.

"If Texas Tech loses to Oklahoma, people just assume they are dead - out of it," Palm said. "And that would probably be true because they're losing in mid-November - and the extra word on the front of their jersey - with the biggest factor being a loss in mid-November."

Palm said the Fiesta Bowl might be the best the Longhorns could hope for at this point.

"I wouldn't buy tickets yet, but you could put it on the calendar in pencil," Palm said. "The Fiesta Bowl isn't a bad place to be. Of course, if Missouri wins the Big 12, that would be out, too. Texas would be somewhere, just not there."

THREE THINGS …

… THAT GOT BETTER


1. Defensive intensity for 60 minutes -
For anyone doubting what Will Muschamp means to this team, watch a replay of this game. These kids would do anything for him. They feed off him. Two fourth-down stops in the first half. Another on the goal line at the end of the game. Sergio Kindle as a pass rusher. Constant pressure on Todd Reesing. You give up seven points to an offense that had been averaging nearly 40 points - on their home turf - you've had a great day, not a good day. Outstanding. Missouri was this defense's best half. Kansas its best complete game.

2. Colt McCoy - This was the Heisman Trophy candidate we'd seen in the first eight games of the season before wear and tear started slowing him down. He completed 24 of 34 for 255 yards and two touchdowns. He ran for 78 yards and a TD. He directed Foswhitt Whittaker where to block on his 4-yard TD run in the first half. He's completing a national-best 77.2 percent of his passes. And he even threw in a couple hook slides to avoid taking some more punishment. Oh, yeah, he tied Vince Young for all-time QB victories at Texas with 30. Not bad.

3. Young players getting it done - The freshmen and sophomores had a big day. Before Blake Gideon was knocked out of the game by Angus Quigley, Gideon had a huge quarterback pressure on fourth down and stripped Quigley to cause a fumble recovered by Texas. Eddie Jones had two key tackles behind the line in the first half. Fozzy Whittaker had a big day catching the ball. Vondrell McGee a slicing, 14-yard TD run (thanks to a great block from Jordan Shipley). Brandon Collins got behind the defense for a 36-yard TD catch. David Snow, with the exception of one snap that resulted in a fumble, controlled the point of attack. Christian Scott was a monster (more on him later). Sam Acho had a couple huge pressures and a fourth-down sack to preserve a goal-line stand in the final minute. You get the idea.


… THAT STAYED THE SAME (OR GOT BETTER)

1. Sergio Kindle -
Kindle was hard on himself after a tough day last week against Baylor left tackle Jason Smith, who was able to contain Kindle most of that game. He bounced back by making play after play against KU. He had 1.5 sacks, flushed Reesing all game long and continues to inspire with his non-stop motor, heart and determination that included a key batted pass to set the tone on KU's first possession.

2. Christian Scott - After KU running back Angus Quigley knocked Blake Gideon out of the game, Scott came in like a glove-dropping, enforcer hockey player and exacted revenge on the next play. Scott wobbled Quigley and a few others in relief of Gideon. He also had two pass breakups, forced a fumble and recovered it. If he could catch, he would have also had an interception. Muschamp said after the game Scott may have the best range and striking ability of any of the team's defensive backs and that the only thing holding him back was his preparation and focus in practice. Muschamp, up to this point, has been reluctant to substitute much at safety because he likes the chemistry Gideon and Earl Thomas have played with. That may change against Texas A&M.

3. Dominating 4th-down - The Jayhawks had a chance to gain serious momentum in the first half because Texas' offense wasn't doing much. But the Texas defense stuffed KU on back-to-back fourth-down plays in the first half. Mack Brown says Texas counts fourth-down plays as turnovers. On offense, Texas was determined to make the most of having the wind in the third quarter and sent Jordan Shipley sailing through the air on a fake field goal that set up a touchdown by Chris Ogbonnaya and gave UT a 21-0 lead. That fourth-down play set the tone for an aggressive third quarter that saw the Longhorns score 21 points and made Mark Mangino's decision to take the wind in the fourth quarter instead of the third totally backfire.

… GOT WORSE

1. Running the ball -
Texas' running backs haven't lost a fumble all season, so they have that going for them. But against Kansas - when the game was in doubt - UT's running backs couldn't make a yard - literally. Fozzy Whittaker's first 10 carries went for zero yards. Whittaker said after the game Kansas had a great defensive scheme "and kind of predicted" where the Longhorns wanted to run the ball. Texas has no running game when Colt McCoy is not a big part of it. My two biggest questions coming into the season were how the young secondary would hold up in the Big 12 and how Texas would run the ball. The young secondary struggled against Texas Tech, and so did the running game. The young secondary has bounced back. The running game hasn't. There's plenty of blame to go around, but it's on the coaches to set up the run better - even if UT is going to be a pass-first offense.

2. Intercepting the ball - Texas is dead last in the Big 12 with only six interceptions this season. Mack Brown counted four dropped interceptions against Kansas. Will Muschamp said he swears Texas works on catching drills with the defense. We don't need to talk about what a dropped interception against Texas Tech has meant to this season. It's time for the Longhorns to stop acting like they have hands of sheet metal, relax and make a play on the ball.

3. Punting the ball - This is sort of a nitpick because Justin Tucker only punted twice, and his second punt was a perfect rugby punt for 33 yards that went out of bounds at the Kansas 12. But Tucker's first punt went for only 11 yards, in part, because Kansas defended the rugby punt by sending an outside rusher on a wide path, right where Tucker likes to roll out and he flubbed the boot. Will be worth watching to see how many other teams take a similar approach.


BIG 12 BOWL PROJECTIONS

Because the power rankings are largely irrelevant at this point, we are switching to bowl projections. These are based on conversations with bowl officials who asked not to be identified.

1. TEXAS TECH (10-0, 6-0) - Will go to the BCS national title game with victories against Oklahoma, Baylor and Missouri. A loss to OU and a win against Baylor could put the Red Raiders into the Fiesta Bowl, depending on if the Big 12 sends a team to the BCS title game and if Tech is the highest ranked team in the BCS standings. If Tech falls short of the Fiesta, the Red Raiders will be Cotton Bowl bound. Right now, the opponent in the BCS title game would be the of the Florida-Alabama SEC title game.

2. TEXAS (10-1, 6-1) - UT's best chance of getting to the BCS national title game is to have OU win out (beating Texas Tech and Oklahoma State), then hope the voters keep the Longhorns ahead of the Sooners by virtue of UT's head-to-head win and send them to the Big 12 title game. If Texas falls short of the BCS title game as a one-loss team, the Longhorns will go to the Fiesta as long as they are the highest ranked Big 12 team in the BCS not going to the national title game. That is almost assured as Texas would be ahead of a one-loss Tech or two-loss OU. The Fiesta will take USC as an at-large selection (if Penn State and Oregon State meet in the Rose Bowl). The Fiesta will take Ohio State or Utah if Penn State and USC meet in the Rose.

3. OKLAHOMA (9-1, 5-1) - The Sooners could play for the national title if they beat Tech and Oklahoma State, get to the Big 12 title game (with tiebreaker help) and beat Missouri for their sixth conference title under Bob Stoops. If OU loses to Texas Tech and beats Oklahoma State, the Sooners are probably headed to the Cotton Bowl. If OU loses to Texas Tech and Okie State, the Sooners are probably headed to the Holiday Bowl. The opponent in the Cotton Bowl will likely be the winner of this week's game between LSU and Ole Miss.

4. OKLAHOMA STATE (9-2, 5-2) - If OSU beats Oklahoma on Nov. 29, the Cowboys are probably headed to the Cotton Bowl. With a loss, Okie State is probably headed to the Holiday Bowl, where the opponent will be Oregon or Oregon State.

5. MISSOURI - (9-2, 5-2) - If the Tigers win the Big 12 title game, they are headed to the Fiesta Bowl. A loss in the Big 12 title game, and the Tigers are probably headed to the Alamo Bowl for a Big Ten matchup against Minnesota, Northwestern or Iowa.

6. NEBRASKA (7-4, 4-3) - The Cornhuskers are either headed to the Gator Bowl or Sun Bowl. The Gator has the option of taking a Big 12 team or Notre Dame to face an ACC opponent. Word right now is the Gator will take Notre Dame. If that's the case, Nebraska heads to the Sun Bowl to face Arizona or Cal.

7. KANSAS (6-5, 3-4) - Right now, KU is the last bowl-eligible team in the Big 12 (Colorado at 5-6 can get eligible with a road win at Nebraska on Nov. 29). The Jayhawks are likely headed to the Insight Bowl and a game against Iowa, Northwestern or Wisconsin.

CHIP'S PROJECTIONS

BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP -
Texas Tech vs. Florida

FIESTA BOWL - Texas vs. USC

ROSE BOWL - Penn State vs. Oregon State

ORANGE BOWL - Cincinnati vs. Miami

SUGAR BOWL - Alabama vs. Utah

COTTON BOWL - Oklahoma vs. LSU

HOLIDAY BOWL - Oklahoma State vs. Oregon

ALAMO BOWL - Missouri vs. Northwestern

SUN BOWL - Nebraska vs. Arizona

INSIGHT BOWL - Kansas vs. Minnesota


COAST TO COAST

THE TOP FIVE

1. FLORIDA -
The Gators are destroying good defenses. And their defense is a fright.

2. TEXAS TECH - The most explosive offense in college football must win on the road this week.

3. TEXAS - A 35-7 victory at Kansas had the Longhorns looking like their Lunchpail selves.

4. OKLAHOMA - Sam Bradford can shake up the Heisman race with a big day Saturday.

5. ALABAMA - Surely the Tide won't lose to Auburn again … right?

CHIP'S HEISMAN BALLOT

1. Michael Crabtree -
The heart and soul of Texas Tech - gives the team its swagger. Gets the edge over Graham Harrell because Harrell does what all the Tech quarterbacks do - throw for a lot of yards. Crabtree takes a short pass and turns it into a long one and makes the whole team believe it's not going to lose.

2. Colt McCoy - Almost got my first-place vote this week because Colt looked like his old self against Kansas, running and throwing and doing more for one team than any other player. If Tech struggles this week, McCoy could be back on top of my ballot next week.

3. Sam Bradford - Yes, he has a big, experienced offensive line and talented receivers, but he makes great decisions and throws the ball down the field more than Harrell.

CHIP'S PICKS

MIAMI at GEORGIA TECH (-4) on Thursday -
Miami 17, Georgia Tech 13

PITTSBURGH at CINCINNATI (-4) - Cincy 31, Pitt 14

BOSTON COLLEGE at WAKE FOREST (-2) - Wake Forest 24, Boston College 20

MICHIGAN at OHIO STATE (-19) - Ohio State 31, Michigan 10

OLE MISS at LSU (-5.5) - Ole Miss 24, LSU 23

FLORIDA STATE at MARYLAND (PK) - Florida State 21, Maryland 20

TEXAS TECH at OKLAHOMA (-7) - Texas Tech 41, Oklahoma 38

BYU at UTAH (-6) - Utah 23, BYU 20

OREGON STATE at ARIZONA (-3) - Oregon State 21, Arizona 17


ONE FINAL THOUGHT

Barack Obama's plan for an eight-team college football playoff sure sounds a lot like the one Mack Brown has been championing. Don't forget, Obama spent some quality time with the Texas Longhorns and Gov. Mack when Obama came down to Austin for his debate with Hillary Clinton. Don't be surprised if Mack becomes a FOBA (Friend of Barack Obama) on the matter. Obama already thinks favorably of Gov. Mack and First Lady Sally (she gave $6,000 to the Obama campaign).


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